Fighting for my writing life

The very friendly and slightly mysterious red typewriter that greets visitors as they step off the antique elevator into Grub Streets office space.

Our motto here is “live to write – write to live.”

Today, I feel like I’ve been fighting tooth and nail for my right to write.

It’s not that anyone is actually trying to stop me from pursuing my dream. It’s just that life has a habit of getting in the way. It’s not exactly malignant or even unkind, just inconvenient and often – like today – insanely frustrating.

Though the fourth was a holiday for most folks in the states today, I worked. It was my choice. I have several large-ish copywriting deadlines looming and, since my daughter was spending the day with her dad, I figured I’d take advantage of the uninterrupted quiet and try to hammer out as much as I could.Β I began work at 9AM and didn’t stop (except to put the trash out, take a shower, and reheat some leftover pasta for dinner) until I hit the wall at 11PM. Despite a long day of butt-in-seat effort, I didn’t manage to get as much done as I’d hoped. *sigh*

That was when I started to feel like my resolve to write was being seriously (and cruelly) tested.

In case you missed it, I signed up for a six-week fiction writing class (the first I’ve taken in years). Last Thursday was the first class. My predicament this evening, as I sat cranky and cursing over my keyboard, is that I’m suddenly not sure there are enough working hours available to meet next week’s deadline. My knee-jerk solution was to consider skipping tomorrow’s class in order to free up time for my client project. Before the thought was even fully formed in my conscious mind, I was railing against it.

“No!” I thought with a silent vehemence that made the sentiment almost audible, “I won’t!” I felt raw and pointy emotions rising from my heart to my throat. I wanted to stamp my feet and pout. I wanted to shout that it isn’t fair. I wanted to crumple across my desk and cry.

Maybe it’s the recent full moon. Maybe it’s hormones. Maybe I’m just over-tired from staying up to watch fireworks Tuesday night. Whatever the reason, I suddenly felt the weight and guilt of years (and years) of failing to follow through settling around me the way shovelfuls of dirt settle around a coffin. Smothering. Inescapable. Final.

Not a happy place.

It’s four minutes ’til midnight as I write this. Tomorrow I will go to class. Even though having that day back would make the next week of workdays much easier. Even though taking this class is costing me money while staying home to work would make me money. Even though my foul mood does not leave me in the best mindset for creative endeavors. Even though I feel a little guilty and self-indulgent for prioritizing my wants over my work obligations. Despite all this, I’m not giving up. I’m not caving in. I’m not bailing out. I am going to stick to my guns, keep my promise to myself, and show up to be a writer.

At the end of last week’s class, our instructor (the lovely Sophie Powell) asked each of us to state our writing intentions for the weeks ahead. As she went around the room, my classmates made various commitments – a half hour of writing each day, four hours of writing each day, a finished chapter, a completed outline, and so on. When it was my turn, I said, “I’m going to be completely honest and painfully realistic and say that the best I can commit to is showing up here each week.” In comparison to the intentions of my classmates, my promise sounded small and even a little lazy; but – in the context of my life – I knew it was a Big Deal.

I have a few other responsibilities for class – bringing a “perfect line” from a favorite book each week, unearthing and editing a piece I worked on years ago so I can bring it in to be workshopped by the class, and writing a couple pages of something new to share towards the end of our six weeks – but if Β all I manage to pull off is perfect attendance, that’s going to be good enough for me … gold-star worthy, in fact.

Well, how about that? I’m feeling a little better. Hopefully, by the time you read this, it will be tomorrow morning and I’ll be refreshed and rested after a half-decent night’s sleep … ready to tackle my commute into the city so I can enjoy three hours of dedication to my dream and my craft. My wish for you today is that you are able to find some time and a perfect way to give your writing dream some love and attention. There is no such thing as tomorrow. Tomorrow is just a figment of your imagination. Today is all you have, so you have to use it wisely.

What will you write today?

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of voice and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

85 thoughts on “Fighting for my writing life

  1. Jamie, I admit I am having difficulty seeing the screen as I type this (could be because it is e-a-r-l-y (!) after an explosive (due to the 4th) night–or that I feel your pain so acutely, I am shedding a few tears for you. Writing this post is part of your fight to write–and you are winning (and cheering on the rest of us!). Keep fighting! Keep writing!

    One of Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits” includes “Sharpen your saw.” His suggestion is that by taking time for yourself–which includes taking the time to write–you will increase your capacity to produce and handle the challenges around you. In other words, take the time for your class and to write (maybe even first?), and you will be more effective doing your have-tos. (I’ve also read this week about Parkinson’s Law, which states that work expands to fill the time allowed… so allow less time for work and more time for writing!) Let’s see if I can follow my own advice…

    Thanks for sharing! Good luck!

    • Sara,
      You are so sweet. The push and pull of finding (and living!) our writing life can be very poignant. It touches something deep. Something that is more integral to our identity than maybe we care to admit.

      Thank you for reminding me of “sharpening the saw.” As a mom, this is advice I hear often – “Take care of yourself, or you can’t take care of anyone else.” I can only imagine what that advice must feel like times 5 for you!

      You also make a great point about work expanding to fit the time allowed. I actually find I’m WAY more productive when I’m crazy-busy. I have to be more efficient, so I am. Funny how that works. πŸ˜‰

      Thanks again for being here and for adding such great comments.

  2. Perfect, how you conjure up the frustrations we all feel. Just emailed two editors as I continue the hunt to find a voice and share it. Thanks for the post. Our art is exhausting, even selfish sometimes, but you just can’t say no to it.

    Enjoy the class:)

    • “… you just can’t say no to it.”
      So true. And I don’t want to. I want to say “Yes!!!” with all my heart and every ounce of creative energy I have.

  3. Turn this phrase in to your writing class: “I suddenly felt the weight and guilt of years (and years) of failing to follow through settling around me the way shovelfuls of dirt settle around a coffin.” That sentence is a worthwhile accomplishment all by itself.

    • Hello, Robert!
      Thank you for the kind compliment.
      You know the funny thing? That image just presented itself to my over-tired and stressed-out mind – complete and ready to go. Maybe there’s something to be said for occasionally pushing ourselves to the limit. Seems to have sparked at least a little something for me!


  4. My writing comes and goes in waves. I just live with the words running through my head and appreciate when I have time to get them out on paper. Those moments are precious. They rise and fall with the pace of life. Be patient and ride those waves, my friend. If we don’t, writing becomes a chore and another thing we must do, tarnishing the pleasure that we get from it. Fiction writing for the consultant should most definitely be a pleasurable endeavor!

    • Thanks, sweetie.
      You make an important point – we must not let our writing become a chore. I have never felt that way about any writing I do for myself, and I do always find pleasure in the practice.
      What I’d like most is to be able to make working on my fiction a habit. I recently came back to the practice of morning pages, and have made that a “loose” habit – meaning I do it almost every day, but I don’t beat myself up if I miss a few days here and there. I would love to cultivate that same kind of habit for my fiction practice. All it takes is time, right?

  5. Yes, it is a struggle isn’t it? Not so much the writing itself, but the process of writing. I happened to look up after reading your post and my eyes caught this quote I’ve got tacked up on my inspiration board:

    “If you do not know what writing is, you may think it is not especiallyd ifficult…let me tell you that it is an arduous task; it destroys your eyesight, bends your spine, squeezes your stomach and your sides, pinches your lower back, and makes your whole body ache….like the sailor arriving at the port, so the writer rejoices on arriving at the last line.
    -Colophon of a 12th Century Beatus Manuscript from Silos-

    Perhaps the physical process of writing is not as difficult as it once was for scribes, but the mental act of writing is as “arduous” as ever!

    We live for that “last line.” It is EVERYTHING.

    You left port. Step 1. Good for you!

    • Hello, dear Laura!
      Wow. That quote makes writing sound like some kind of medieval torture! πŸ˜‰

      Your musing reminds me of two quotes I’ve come across recently. The first was from Stephen King’s “On Writing” and talked about always coming to the page with a certain gravity – purpose – weight – giving “the page” it’s due. The second (which I cannot, at the moment, attribute, but which I will research) was from an equally prominent writer who said that writing should be enjoyable and light. I found the juxtaposition of those two opinions so interesting. I wonder how some of my favorite authors approach their creative work. Is it with ponderous purpose or puckish playfulness?

      And – yes – I have left port. Thanks for the bon voyage! πŸ˜‰

  6. I have no doubts you will sail to great places, Jamie! Like any journey, it takes time to arrive, and some days there’s no damn wind. πŸ™‚

  7. I’m glad you wrote this, posted it and that I read it – sometimes I fall so short in my writing and I beat myself up over it. You’ve let me know the struggle is not my own and that I can pick myself up and get back to it!! Thank you!

    • Hello, Sheila.
      No writer is alone in this. We all have our own, unique demons to face; but most of them spring from the same fears and guilts.

      Absolutely – pick yourself up and go for it!

      (And, you’re welcome!) πŸ™‚

    • Hooray, Gail! I would love to hear what you discover about Scrivener. I bought it last November, but haven’t “dug in” yet. That’s coming soon. Very soon.

      Thank you for listening. (And for chiming in!) πŸ™‚

  8. I understand all too well. Luckily I’m in the middle of upending my life and have the luxury of moving my writing off the front burner. I’ve uploaded Scrivener and started outlining that “someday” book I will write before I die. Classes are scheduled; some have already been completed. The map is coming into focus. Sometimes it takes years to find your way back to writing. Don’t lose hope.

    • You are right. We can move away from our writing for years at a time, but it is still (and always will be) a part of who we are. I am finding my way back and even venturing into new territory as well. It feels good. It’s exciting. It’s amazing how quickly my mind tunes back into the creative process.

      Not losing hope at all. Felt a bit down and out last night, but after today’s class – fired up! πŸ™‚

  9. Don’t you just love blogging? It heals our inner voices and allows the ‘real’ us to finally shine though! You are lucky you have worked in publishing in some form, because from all I’ve seen, that will help you publish what you write. I’m at ground zero. I’ve taken the time, written quite a lot. I have never been published, have no contacts…writing and getting published really are a full time job! I have inner voices that suffocate me as well! Blogging, best therapy in the world!

    • Blogging is wonderful. I attribute all that I have, professionally, to blogging. It gave me a chance to put myself out there and has helped me connect with so many people – “contacts” who have since become friends.

      I have to admit that I published this particular post in an impetuous moment. I do not regret it, but am blushing slightly at just how easy it was to get so personal. I do not do that often and have never done so about writing. I think it may be a good first step to owning some things.

      Therapy, indeed. πŸ˜‰

  10. I feel your pain for sure. I work at home as a contractor, wearing so many hats I feel like I am playing the Caps for Sale dude. I say I love to write and create, but making a living that doesn’t feel so creative, always comes first. At the end of the day there is little left to give to my happier more creative voice. But maybe that is a clue- your voice certainly came through loud and clear in your post. Sometimes this frustration is a message that inner voices are pushing to emerge. Hey, let it out! I can see where you might enjoy writing a piece where a character feels the same frustration about a whole different topic in a different situation. You certainly have the language and feelings to make it believable! Maybe try to find time each day to play with writing (even 10 minutes or so)-that is what I am going to try to do. I think it will help us not feel like we are cheating ourselves.

    • I love the Caps for Sale dude! πŸ™‚

      There may, indeed, be something to be said for just going with the flow when exhaustion takes over. I definitely let ‘er rip in a more intense, personal, and casual way than I usually do. It wasn’t perfect, but it did feel “right” somehow.

      Love the idea of “just 10 minutes” each day. I’ve been playing with the idea of quick character or setting sketches … bits of dialog … anything that will keep my writing muscles limber. And, you’re right, it would definitely help me feel like I was doing something for myself. THANKS!

  11. “There is no such thing as tomorrow. Tomorrow is just a figment of your imagination. Today is all you have, so you have to use it wisely.”

    This is one of the greatest things I’ve read recently in relation to writing.

    Sometimes, we just need to get the frustration out of us via blog or crying or even stomping our feet. πŸ˜€ It can help us to move on with whatever we’ve got going on.

    Good luck! *starts to look into copy writing as a possible career switch*

    • Thanks, Liz. That’s awful kind of you to say. *blush*
      Agreed. Sometimes the best thing to do is let it out and then get over it. Bottling it up inside leads to nasty things. I’ll take a good foot stomping any day! πŸ˜‰

      Copywriting can be fun. If you’re interested, check out Peter Bowerman (The Well-Fed Writer) and Ed Gandia (Freelancer International) – both are great resources. I’d be happy to answer any questions you have as well.

      PS – Love your avatar. πŸ™‚

  12. It’s the “shoulds” that kill us. Don’t let them steal your creativity and drive. You do what you can do today and pronounce it good. Be kind to yourself.

    I’ve come to acknowledge lately that blogging is writing, legitimate writing (whatever that means). It may not be the novel I’d hoped to work on this week, but it is writing and it is being read by others.

    • Thank you, Cora.
      Blogging is writing … and we can blog stories (instead of how-to tips and endless top 10 lists) if we choose to. It’s up to us. I’ve actually been thinking more about that lately – opening my eyes to the fact that even if it’s not a novel, there are ways to bring creativity and story to any piece of writing. After all, I preach often about the importance of story in marketing … seems I just need to practice more of what I preach! πŸ˜‰

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • And yet, sometimes, we put ourselves (and our dreams) dead last on the To Do list. As the Franklin Covey books put it, we wind up working on the urgent stuff instead of the important stuff. We allow ourselves to be distracted by the fire in front of us and lose sight of the Big Dream.

      Not skipping. Not even once.

  13. I clicked on this post from my feed because of the pretty red typewriter. I want it.

    I worked on my novel yesterday, stayed in and didn’t see fireworks, host a cook out or nothin’. I did make brats and corn on the cob on the stove, so that was delish. And my husband was cool with staying in and catching up.

    • Don’t you LOVE the typewriter? I jazzed it up a bit in my photo apps (I’m an Instagram junkie), but – really – there are few machines more elegant and alluring than the old-fashioned typewriter. They just ooze magic to me.

      Glad you got to work on your novel yesterday and how nice that your husband was cool with staying in. Sounds like you have a good support system for your writing – and that is SO key.

      … now, I have to go put “corn on the cob” on my shopping list. πŸ˜‰

  14. This post really spoke to me! You are an eloquent writer and yes, you have to continue with the class because if you don’t nurture yourself you will be absolutely no good to anyone, yourself or others! I am still learning this lesson but it is true. And just showing up every week is definitely gold star worthy! And I love your conclusion–so true–there is only today! Good luck!

    • Hi, Daphne.
      Thank you – for the kind words and for the reminder to nurture myself. We forget that so often, don’t we?
      Showing up … they say that’s half the battle, so I guess I’m doing pretty well.

      TKS for coming by.

      • Our culture doesn’t really encourage self-nurturing, especially for women, so we really do need to remind ourselves that it isn’t selfish but self-necessary if you will. And showing up is more than half the battle! Good luck!

  15. It very well could be the moon phase. I recently ranted about my writing, too. In fact, I average a rant about twice a month. My blog voice usually comes out as yelling but yours is much more calmer. Most likely, the reason why people comment on yours as to fleeing from mine. πŸ™‚

    • That made me laugh. πŸ™‚
      If it was the moon, I guess we can be thankful that it will always be changing and taking those crazy mood swings with it, right? Phew!

    • Hi, Brenton.
      I read your post and found it so interesting that you broke down your answers by different types of writing. I hadn’t thought about it like that before.

      I was also interested that this question came to you when you read my post because I wound up thinking about this very thing on my drive home today, though it hadn’t been on my mind last night. I’m working up a post in my head on the topic. It’s a big question … and one with many answers that change, I think, over our lifetime.

      Thanks for coming by and for the comment.

    • Thank you, Sara.
      Though I felt a bit self-indulgent, writing the post was definitely cathartic. Sometimes it feels good to just let it all hang out. πŸ™‚

    • Well, thanks! πŸ™‚ That’s so nice of you to say, and it’s a good reminder that even if we’re not producing the novel we’re dreaming of, there is plenty of other worthwhile writing to be done.

  16. Jamie, I find it very helpful to share my intentions with others, like “I’m going to write today.” And reminding myself that there is only this moment, no tomorrow, no next week- just now- helps me too- as does this beautifully written and honest post of yours. Tom

    • Hi, Tom.
      The power of shared intentions is huge. I haven’t experimented with this too much (yet), but I can already feel the results of sharing with all the lovely folks who read this blog. Somehow, putting my writing dreams out there in the light has made them much more real – more tangible. It’s scary and exhilarating at the same time … kind of like a roller coaster, or the feeling I get when my daughter and I practice trapeze.

      Thanks for your support.

  17. Hey, Jamie.
    Where you wrote “Whatever the reason, I suddenly felt the weight and guilt of years (and years) of failing to follow through settling around me the way shovelfuls of dirt settle around a coffin. Smothering. Inescapable. Final.”

    Jamie you have not “failed” to follow through not at all, because you are still chipping away at the stone. Remember we only fail when we quit.
    I don’t think it is in you to give up and I know you wont.
    I work for myself, and I am a writer a husband and a father, so I know time constraints all to well.
    I am about to begin writing a novel it is burning in me like the sun.
    I am doing it I know you can too.
    If you need anything feel free to ask, I will help the best I can πŸ™‚

    • Huzzah to that! πŸ˜‰
      I think the thing that warms my heart the most is realizing that I still feel passionate enough to get in there and fight. The worst tragedy would be if I became complacent, gave up the dream, forgot why I wanted it. Thank the gods I’m not there. I’m still full of spit and fury and building up momentum.
      πŸ˜‰ Glad to have you here on the journey.

    • The class went very well. Thanks. I’m guessing, based on your handle, that you are very interested in “dream” jobs … all of which, I’d reckon, include a healthy helping of passion and a pointed lack of complacency. Though the worst thing that could happen would be to lose our passion, the second worst thing is to lose sight of it. It’s so easy – what with all the juggling – for it to vanish behind all the other things that fill our plate, but – with a little intentional practice – we can make sure to keep the spark alive so that when we’re ready, it’s there.

  18. You touched a nerve with me here too – the “right to write” is a fantastic line and it can be stretched to incorporate all things creative. Striking that balance between honing your craft and earning your daily crust is difficult but hang on in there. Being creative is all about hard work, not sitting around waiting for your muse to strike and by the sounds of it you have got the right attitude and the right work ethic so just keep going. I’m rooting for ya!

    • “Being creative is all about hard work, not sitting around waiting for your muse to strike …”

      Damn straight! πŸ™‚
      The more I learn about the craft of writing and the more I practice that craft, I understand that although the end product is magic, there is no magic in the making of that product. There is hard work. There is study. There is research and hard thought and many long hours in the chair with your fingers on the keyboard. But there is no magic.

      And that’s ok.
      The truth of magic is that it often springs from the commonplace. There is magic in small kindnesses, in keen observation, and in the slow and methodical work of putting one word down after the last until you have “magically” created a story.

      Thanks for coming by and inspiring that little spin of thoughts.

  19. I can so relate to this posting. I think everyone has a life that interfers with out dreams and goals. The ones who realize their dreams are the ones that believe enough in them to make time in between the daily chores and responsibilities required to survive. I have heard in so many writing classes that it’s not skill or talent that make a successful writer. It’s perseverance that gets you there. So keep up the good work; you’ll make it if you just don’t give up.

    • As Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
      It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s the critical piece that makes all the difference.

      Thanks for the encouragement – right back atcha!

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  21. What happens when your dream becomes your work? I mean… In this right moment in where people just dont care about reading and Just care about whats the new phone or stuffs… what happens with the writters? & the book sells… is it rentable to publish a book or just make a Blog?

    • I’m not sure I fully understand your question, but I believe there will ALWAYS be a place for writers. No matter the media, there needs to be a message, and that is what writers do – create messages, tell stories. I just began reading “The Storytelling Animal” by Jonathan Gottschall and it’s fascinating how deeply story is ingrained in our DNA.
      It’s not going anywhere.
      Thank goodness.

      • Yeah, Im well aware that every writer has something to say… im sorry didnt make right the question.. am, Is it worth to publish a book of for example Poetry… aam cuz of the sells & stuffs.. or just make Blogging & stuffs?

  22. I call this “keeping milk in the house,” the way life has of getting in the way of plans, dreams, goals…very frustrating, and I frequently experience it myself. Let me know if you find a solution! I’m all ears! ~ Sheila

    • Sheila,
      I absolutely LOVE that!!! I think about that ALL the time … the way (especially women and mothers) are running this constant race of making sure everyone has everything they need and nothing every runs out. Sometimes, I feel like my life’s work is more like that of a glorified stock girl than anything else! πŸ˜‰

      I don’t have a solution (yet!), but I’ll be sure to let you know if I find one!

      Thanks for the note. Glad to know I’m not the only one.

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  24. As I sit with my own writing issues, struggling to get back to my novel that I need to edit for the upteenth time, your perspective was right on! So glad I found a fellow writer so relatable!!!! And at this time in the morning to boot! (oh yeah, you are probably smart enough to be in bed!) lol.

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